August 28, 2012 | Tim Johnson
Policy makers and politicians across Europe should be taking much more account of what users actually need as they plan to roll out superfast broadband across the continent, according to Tim Johnson, of broadband specialists Point Topic. This announcement comes directly from the Broadband Forum quarterly meeting in Bucharest, where Johnson provided a key presentation on his thoughts about the broadband market.
“Every European country is planning how to deliver superfast to all its citizens by 2020,” Johnson points out. “But the emphasis is too much on the headline speeds and not enough on the user experience.”
“While politicians may boast of having the fastest internet in Europe, about 40 million homes still can’t get 2 megabits. They need at least that speed for a good experience watching internet video, such as YouTube or BBC iPlayer.”
Point Topic has mapped broadband availability across Europe to support the EU’s Digital Agenda. They estimate that 3.4 million homes in Britain can’t get 2 megabits today over fixed broadband services, and official figures show that 4.3 million households in Germany are in the same situation.
“Meanwhile, the media is being sold the message that nothing but optical fibre all the way to the home will do for broadband in the twenty-teens – but that’s not the most cost-effective way of providing what people actually need,” Johnson explains. He believes that the policy makers should be focusing on the extra homes connected per pound or per euro, plus the need for good performance at the speeds people actually use. “Twenty megabits with good quality of service is better than 100 megabits without,” he says.
The official targets also ignore issues like performance across multiple superfast networks using different technologies, needed for users to get good quality end-to-end performance on video calls for example. There is also an issue about the proposed use of mobile networks to fill the gaps in fixed broadband coverage. Although they may meet the speed requirement at a basic level they are not technically well-adapted to supporting the continuous high-volume flows of data which video applications need.
Organisations like the Broadband Forum have done a huge amount of work to develop the technical standards which define good Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE). In his speech at Bucharest, Johnson urged them to engage more closely with policy-makers, politicians and investors to ensure that the new broadband networks deliver the value they promise. His call came as the Forum announced the availability of a new white paper, MR-180 (Delivering Quality IPTV over DSL) and a new Technical Report (TR-197), “DSL Quality Suite: DSL Quality Management Nomenclature and Techniques”.
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